ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved a novel way on Thursday for recovery of outstanding electricity bills throughout the country. The federal and provincial governments unanimously decided to use police force, whose expenditure would be borne by electricity distribution companies.
The decision was taken at a CCI meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, and attended by all four chief ministers, an official statement said.
The move was recommended by a special committee constituted by the CCI and headed by the Minister for Water and Power, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, for an equitable distribution of electricity in the country.
Under the plan, provincial police departments will designate one DSP with 40 personnel at the disposal of each distribution company for deployment anywhere in its area for recovery of bills and detection of power theft. The companies will bear the expenses.
The meeting was informed that the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had already notified their police to help the distribution companies.
The prime minister directed the federal departments and provincial governments to clear their current electricity bills forthwith. Any complaints about overbilling should be settled within a month, he added.
The CCI also approved other recommendations of the committee, which now will also have the finance ministry’s principal officer as one of its members.
KESC’s idle capacity
The CCI endorsed a decision to reduce supply to the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) from 650 megawatts to 350MW.
The company was asked to fill the gap through its own production capacity.
Under an agreement, the KESC was to meet its shortfall from the national grid. However, the KESC, instead of using its own generation capacity to the fullest, was banking on the national grid. The CCI disapproved of this practice and asked it to use its ‘idle capacity’.
The council agreed to stick to the formula of distribution of electricity among distribution companies in place since 2006.
Federal Legislative List
The CCI decided to constitute a standing committee of its own to deal with issues related to the Federal Legislative List (part II). The list includes railways, natural resources, development of industries, working of major ports, federal regulatory bodies, national economic planning, supervision and management of public debt, census, legal and medical professions, higher education and research and inter-provincial matters.
The committee will be headed by the inter-provincial coordination secretary as chairman. The CCI’s joint secretary, federal law secretary and the provincial secretaries for inter-provincial coordination will be its members.
The council also discussed the issue of provincial representation in federal entities. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proposed that the provinces be given at least 40 per cent representation in the management boards of all such institutions, regulatory bodies and other entities falling within the purview of subjects and items in the Federal Legislative List (Part-II).
Investment in power sector
The prime minister said determination of upfront tariff would pave the way for speedy investments in the power sector. He said the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) should have in-house capability and expertise to determine upfront tariff for plants run on coal, wind, solar, bio-gas, gas, oil etc.
The tariff should provide incentives and attract investors, he said.
The meeting was informed that work on a ‘draft electricity law’ needed to be expedited.
The prime minister asked Nargis Sethi, the Secretary for Water and Power and Cabinet Division, to coordinate with Nepra for working out an upfront tariff.
For hydroelectric power projects, where financing has not yet been committed by any source, the provinces may contribute as investors in financing through holding companies.
Proposals and schemes prepared by the federal government for conversion of street lights to the solar mode, distribution of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and solar UPS charging will be looked into by the provinces.
The council said energy generation and conservation plans should be budgeted under provincial annual development programmes.
Proposals for replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs and light emitting diodes (LEDs), gas geysers with solar water heaters and introduction of micro-solar grids for up to 10 households through micro-financing also came under discussion.
Respect for judiciary
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Ashraf reiterated that his government honoured the decisions of the courts and appreciated their role in strengthening institutions and democracy. He said the government was committed to its political and constitutional obligations and believed in a strong role for all institutions in their due spheres.